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200 environmental women defenders killed in 2017: Activists
Nairobi, Dec 4 : This year has been the deadliest for environmental women defenders, with 200 assignations reported across the globe, and most of them were killed over land and forest conflicts, rights activists said on Monday.
Paying a tribute on the inaugural day of the three-day third UN Environment Assembly here, they highlighted the important role of women human rights defenders for a pollution-free future.
"Two hundred environmental and women human rights defenders have been assassinated this year, mostly killed over land and forest conflicts. Only last week, we lost Elisa Badayos from the Philippines. But these conflicts are greatly aggravated by pollution," Priscilla Achakpa of the Women's Major Group (WMG) said.
In the Niger Delta, communities continue to resist against the oil spills from Shell, which have devastated their lands.
In Lagos, the waste scavengers resist eviction.
"Pollution is not incidental but is a deliberate and inevitable consequence of a profit-oriented economy of mass production of harmful plastics, pesticides and fossil fuels," Achakpa said.
Helen Hakena of Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency of Papua New Guinea added: "We have suffered a 20-year war, which has had a terrible impact on women. Sixty-two per cent of the men confessed to having raped women."
"Even though the war has ended, women still face immense aggression from the conflict of resources on our land, where an international mining company operated the largest open pit mine in the world. The Panguna mine has destroyed and polluted our land, forest, rivers and food sources, and seeps all profits away."
In Kenya, the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme, some 5,000 people are exposed to mercury pollution in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sites.
"Mercury is banned under the Minamata Convention, negotiated here at the UNEP. In the impoverished community that I'm working with they don't have much option. Mining gold and mixing it with mercury is the only knowledge they have and the main source of income," said Griffins Ochieng from the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development.
The WMG was created at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where governments recognized women as one of the nine important groups in society for achieving sustainable development.
The WMG is an official participant in the United Nations processes on Sustainable Development.
Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives gathered here to mull ways to tackle the global menace of pollution.
(Vishal Gulati is in Nairobi at the invitation of United Nations Environment to cover its third annual session. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)